In March, the numbers were stacked against Dewayne Wise having any involvement with the Yankees in the regular season. Then Brett Gardner injured his wrist, sending him to the disabled for over two months as he experienced one setback after another.
So on May 4, Wise went from a minor league insurance policy to a major league reserve outfielder. That role means starts are still sporadic and for someone who is known more for defense, it means playing time occurs mostly as a late-inning defensive replacement.
Monday night was the eighth time Wise appeared in the Yankee starting lineup and he came through, producing three runs in a 7-1 victory over the Indians.
Wise started because manager Joe Girardi wanted to give Curtis Granderson his first game off from playing the field. Granderson had appeared in the field in all but two innings this year.
“Everybody was just happy for me,” Wise said. “It’s been a while and I’ve been trying to get my work in everyday just in case I do get the opportunity to go in there. I was just glad I was able to have a good game today.”
And just like many moves when things are going well, this move paid off significantly as the Yankees won for the 23rd time in their last 30 games.
It paid off right away as Wise turned on Josh Tomlin’s 1-2 curveball and sent it into the front rows of the right-center field bleachers, pushing the lead to 4-0 with one out in the second inning.
“He has not had a lot of at-bats,” Girardi said. “He’s been a defensive replacement and pinch runner for us and to come in and get us three RBI and tack on to that 2-0 lead in the second inning, it just shows you that he knows how to do his job and he prepares well.”
“It’s tough,” Wise said. “I think it’s all on the individual. If you ask some of these guys that play everyday, they’ll tell you that being a bench guy, that’s the toughest job in baseball. So in the third or fourth inning, you have to come in here, stretch, hit off the tee and do whatever it is that will get you ready in case you have to go in the game.”
Wise hit the Yankees’ 113th home run of the year while becoming the 12th different Yankee to hit a home run in the first 72 games. An inning later, the Yankees added their 114th and 115th home runs of the year as Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher went deep in a span of six pitches.
The three blasts gave the Yankees 37 in their last 20 games and made them 32-7 when hitting more than one.
Stats withstanding, this was Wise’s night.
“It’s huge,” Swisher said of Wise’s contributions. “I got to give my boy D-Wise credit. It was his day.”
“It’s always good to see a guy like Dewayne [do well],” Cano added. “He always works hard and never complains.”
After hitting the home run, he drove in his third run with a triple to the right field warning track in the sixth off reliever Scott Barnes.
The home run and triple marked Wise’s first game with one of each since Sept. 3 when he achieved both off Bartolo Colon at Yankee Stadium. The three RBI were his most since driving in four July 4, 2010 when he hit a three-run home run off Phil Hughes and had an RBI single off Mariano Rivera.
Both of those previous notable games by Wise were for the Blue Jays, whom he appeared in 142 games for.
“It’s tough,” Wise said of not playing everyday. “I’m pretty much in the game everyday as a pinch runner or defensive replacement. I haven’t been getting too many at-bats lately, but my attitude’s been good and I still come in here everyday and prepare myself in case I have to go in the game.”
Wise did not even need to make any highlight-reel defensive plays as Hiroki Kuroda alternated between keeping the ball on the ground and strike outs. He allowed one run on four hits and struck out seven while facing two batters in the eighth and exiting to a standing ovation.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.